It's the day of rest so I ought perhaps not to be doing this, but I simply cannot bear to see nothing new on our weblog today. What I'd like to do, then, is just quickly to direct such of our readers as might be interested to what seems to me an engaging discussion concerning the two renditions of HHS's recent mandate.
The first entry in the discussion is a very arresting and vigorously argued article by Robert George and Sherif Girgis, titled Morals and Mandates ('MM'). This piece provides what might be the most compelling philosophical justification available for continuing skepticism, on the part of the US Catholic Bishops and others, in face of the White House's recent 're-do' of the original HHS mandate. There then follow three interconnected entries by yours truly, each focussed on one question raised in my poor addled brain by MM.
The upshot of my provisional answers to my own interrelated queries is that MM, which argues that there is no morally substantive difference between the first and second renditions of the HHS mandate, might have overlooked something important - something which afforded very good reason for even us 'lefties' to be troubled by the first version of the mandate even as we respond more favorably to the possible shapes that a 're-do' of the mandate, of the sort broadly sketched by the White House last weekend, might take.
The 'something' in question is what I am tentatively calling an 'integrity,' or 'dignitary' interest held by religiously affiliated institutions, to which some forms of mandate can do violence while other such forms do not. That which renders some mandates violative in this sense, I suspect, is their directly conscripting the moral agency of the institutions in question in such manner as requires those institutions to take intentional actions that 'speak' very directly to the contrary of those institutions' magisterial (i.e., moral teaching) messages.
That which distinguishes cases of such apparent conscription from less troubling demands or requirements, such as those to pay taxes that ultimately finance what is objectionable to the tax-payer, seems to be deeply linked to those 'proximity heuristics' that can be seen also at work in 'proximate causation' queries in the law of tort and in 'trolley problems' in philosophical ethics.
(It's also linked, I suspect, to what ever prompted Justice O'Connor's anti-'commandeering' concern given expression in New York v. United States, how ever peculiar I might have found that opinion when a JD student. (Since US states do not seem to me to have any normatively interesting 'messages,' 'meanings,' or other expressive/representative functions over against those of the nation)).
The 'heuristics' I mention might well be more intensional or connotative than they are extensional or denotative, hence more about meanings and intentions than about effects or material consequences. But they are nevertheless causally efficacious and hence as materially important as they are formally important - precisely in owing to the fact that our actions in the world always give not only expression, but much additional material-consequential effect, to our 'meanings.'
Our 'meanings,' in other words, 'matter.'
Here are links to the pieces in question...
Comments are open, all thoughts appreciated.